The acclaimed best-selling author - winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize - tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families' lives.
One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating's christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny's mother, Beverly - thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.
Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.
When, in her 20s, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.
Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.
©2016 Ann Patchett (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
I have a thorny history with Patchett. The origin of my dislike of this good writer's books (many prestigious writing awards tell me so) began with me reading State of Wonder. I thought it repulsive and ridiculous--please don't hammer me for this honest opinion--I just found the visual of naked tribal octogenarians sucking sap from slits in the bark of trees grotesque, bizarre, highly nonsensical, and extremely off-putting. I'm midway between 80 and when I gave birth, and even if I had the desire to be pregnant and have an infant again, where would I get the energy? It wasn't my first Patchett novel; I'd read the very satisfying The Magician's Assistant and Bel Canto, before I got the glowing review that I just had to read SofW. That is where an OK relationship turned into UGH.
Patchett is a very good writer, even in my H opinion, and obviously can carry a story through--I finished every book of hers I started; continued on even when the arthritic, saggy breasted women of SofW started gnawing frenziedly on trees. After that, I swore off Patchett, but here I am again and all because I know Patchett can write beautifully. I was hoping for more early experiences with the author, and got them. Commonwealth immediately draws in the reader with an opening scene that feels choked with sensuality and brass. The next chapter begins to tell the consequences of that day when a Cousins stole a kiss from a Keating in the nursery
The story spans generations with a full cast that takes some skill to keep in order, especially because the story changes narrators, and with those changes, jumps times back then forward. This is a story of what if...how a single action can change the trajectory of lives and fortunes; in looking back what would we change and in the hopes of what kind of outcome.
Good meandering story that looks at lives through a modern and realistic lens, and poses moments that will be identifiable with any reader.
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Hmmmm...people seem reluctant to review Commonwealth. Day 2 and no reviews!
There's a reason for that.
One of my all time favorite audio productions is Ann Patchett's 'State of Wonder' read by Hope Davis. They are a the dream team of audio books. Both are the expected perfection in this production of Commonwealth but the story it simply not listening material- it is a far too intricately patterned novel. After listening to first two hours twice, I began to consider a trip to wiki it for a clue about what was going on. Before taking such a drastic step, I decided to read the text reviews on Amazon. They are, of course, raves. I was convinced to forego the wiki spoilers, return the audible version and buy a hard copy.
It's a nice effort, but some books are just meant to be read.
I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?
Initially I found this book to be disjointed and had difficulty staying with it. I'm not sure if it's just the nature of the audio version, but the going back and forward in time and the many characters and with which family they belonged, at times felt like maybe it just wasn't worth it.
Then the story came together and I found a pace and got into it. All progressed well until near the end when the plot unraveled and once again became disjointed. Overall this book certainly has redeeming qualities but I just couldn't commit.
I am a library media specialist at a middle/high school. I love classics, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, YA books (especially dystopias!) and picture books.
Ann Patchett has written a gem of a book- a pared down family saga that will live in my imagination for a long time. Commonwealth delivers segments of an arc, some overlapping, mostly out of order. Patchett trusts the reader to fill in the blanks, to intuit the shape of the whole. This is a novel about the power of story and the gravitational pull of family, and it packs a punch.
I have loved everything I've read by Patchett, especially her nonfiction collection This is the Story of a Happy Marriage ( read it twice- it's that good) but this is definitely my new fave! Tremendous storytelling, wonderful characters, and some of the most well timed humor I've ever read in a novel. A must listen!
Ann Patchett veers from her usual life in a far off place to weave a story of the blended family of modern America, connecting the lives of all six children whose pasts and futures become entangled when an uninvited guest finds his way to a christening party. Each character is fully developed to the point where you could recognize them at a cocktail party if you spent only a few minutes hearing about their lives. Hope Davis should be the only performer to make Patchett's words come alive - and could even play Franny if this books become a film. This book and the Audible version are Patchett's and Davis's best works yet.
I tried and tried to listen to this, but it was slow and just awful. Maybe it gets better deeper into the book but ... who can bear it that long? I am returning it for my credit back.
Never got one. Just when I thought it might get good, it fizzled out.
I am a live storyteller who devours huge amounts of audio books to study classics and new books so I can tell new stories.
What I love best about Commonwealth was Patchett's complex structure which traveled forward and backward through time and told stories from multiple perspectives. This non-linear narrative was confusing at first, but when I listened to the book a second time I understood its intricacy and craftsmanship.
Without question, the most memorable moment was when Teresa visits her daughter Holly in Switzerland. While meditating, Teresa sees the death of her son Cal played out before her eyes as if she was there as a witness.
Oh, this is hard, but I got to say the drunk writer who wanted Frannie but ended up with a bestselling book that tore apart their relationship. Hope Davis gave him an inebriated, romantic, and snobby air.
Yes, I wanted to listen to this book all in one sitting. I read it TWICE in one week. It was worth it because the novel is complex and dense, but beautifully executed. I highly recommend it.
I never could figure out where this was going and could not stay interested at all. Too many characters in too short a time maybe. I wish I had not wasted my credit on this book. I just could not follow the storyline.
If you're expecting "State of Wonder" or "Bel Canto" then please lower your expectations.
The narration and the writing are still quality, but the author seems to have lost her ability (or her desire) to completely transport the reader to that far away place that...this book is ordinary.
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